Information Security Funding Gets Prickly

WASHINGTON (07/24/2000) - The White House turned up the heat on Congress last week, criticizing members for an apparent reluctance to fund new information security programs.

In a speech July 17, White House Chief of Staff John Podesta called on Congress to "pick up the pace" on funding information security initiatives within government in the fiscal 2001 budget. Podesta's primary concern is the continued lack of funding in House and Senate bills for the security initiatives proposed by President Clinton in January. "Good security needs to be updated constantly, and it costs money," Podesta said.

Clinton outlined many of his security initiatives in the National Plan for Information Systems Protection, which encompasses a range of security measures within agencies. In the plan and the fiscal 2001 budget, Clinton proposed more than $90 million for several new cybersecurity initiatives, including $12 million for the network that would detect cyberattacks against federal computer systems.

The funding for each initiative appears in a different appropriations bill, and, so far, none of the bills have made it through their respective appropriations committees. "Unfortunately, to date, Congress still refuses to appropriate one dime to put these initiatives in place," Podesta said. "It's time they picked up the pace and provided the protections that are essential to America's cybersecurity." The Office of Management and Budget has urged congressional committees to include funding for the programs, but Podesta's pleas raise the funding issue to a higher political level, said John Tritak, director of the Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, which coordinated and wrote the plan.

"I think these are very important programs for the administration, and you can't do this without money, and there are indications that the money may not be forthcoming," Tritak said. "[Podesta] is a very important player, and I think it underscores the president's interest in these matters."

But Sens. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) are sponsoring a bill that includes authorization for the Federal Cyber Services program, which would pay educational costs for college students in return for working for the government in information security. The Government Information Security Act (S. 1993), which Thompson and Lieberman hope to pass before summer recess next month, also would require agencies to create a formal process to secure information systems.

Thompson, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, and Lieberman, the committee's ranking minority member, put forth the bill last year in an effort to increase accountability for security within civilian agencies by establishing governmentwide security practices and requiring annual audits of agency security programs.

Recognizing the short time left on the legislative calendar, Thompson and Lieberman attached their bill to the fiscal 2001 defense authorization bill (H.R. 4205), which passed the Senate last week. The two worked with the Senate Armed Services Committee to make sure the bill reflected the needs of the national security community, and the authorization bill is likely to be enacted, so it seemed a natural fit, a committee staff member said. "This will just move it more quickly," the staff member said.

If enacted as part of the authorization bill, the bill will include funding for the Federal Cyber Services program, which both Thompson and Lieberman have supported from the beginning.

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